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National Cancer Organizations Issue Joint Statement on Devastating Impact of Sequestration

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Key Points

  • Community practices are in an untenable position and will be forced to either treat patients at a loss—resulting in clinic closings—or be unable to treat patients on Medicare.
  • The Community Oncology Alliance is urging the Administration and Congress to act immediately to avoid the most devastating sequestration impacts.

The Community Oncology Alliance (COA), in conjunction with the American Society of Clinical Oncology, International Oncology Network/AmerisourceBergen, and the US Oncology Network, issued a joint statement on the crippling effects of sequestration cuts to cancer drugs and services which began April 1, 2013.  The organizations also sent letters to Health and Human Services (HHS), the United States Senate, and the United States House of Representatives.

Sequestration cuts will apply not only to services physicians and others provide, but also to the fixed, pass-through costs of chemotherapy and related cancer-fighting drugs.  Community cancer care providers are struggling to survive in this unsustainable environment.

Patient Access to Cancer Care in Jeopardy

Unless the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) exercises its authority to modify implementation of sequestration to exclude Part B drugs, sequestration—a move intended to reduce federal spending—will actually jeopardize patient access to cancer care.  A recent survey indicates the sequester cut will force 72% of cancer clinics to deny new Medicare patients or send all Medicare patients to the hospital for treatment. Access problems will multiply and costs will increase for both seniors fighting cancer and Medicare.  This will result in higher overall costs for both seniors and the Medicare program by forcing patients into costlier, institutional treatment settings.

"Never before have I been forced to consider financial concerns when deciding which patients to treat," commented Mark Thompson, MD, President of COA and an oncologist with the Zangmeister Center in Columbus, Ohio.  "Oncologists should not be put in the untenable position of continuing to treat patients at a loss—which will result in clinic closings—or being unable to treat Medicare seniors fighting cancer in order to keep the clinic doors open."

Cuts Must Be Addressed Immediately

"Most frustrating is that this did not have to happen. There are several ways that the Administration and Congress can act to avoid the most devastating of sequestration impacts," explained Ted Okon, Executive Director of COA.  "However the cuts are addressed, it must be done immediately.  In the absence of government action to stop sequestration cuts, practices will have no choice but to adopt emergency measures to deal with the sequester cuts to cancer drugs."

Since 2008, more than 1,200 community cancer care centers have closed, consolidated, or reported financial problems.  The result has been patient access problems; increased costs to seniors, Medicare, and taxpayers due to the migration of Medicare patients to costlier care settings; and new barriers to care for elderly patients in remote areas.  When community cancer clinics close their doors, access to cancer care is compromised for all cancer patients, but especially vulnerable seniors.  The full text of the joint statement and the letters to HHS, CMS, the Senate, and the House are available at www.CommunityOncology.org.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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